August has arrived in Venice, and the Lagoon is as beautiful as always in this strange and unprecedented year. Breathtaking colors and skies, which by mid-August will fuse into something magical, the azure and purple the colors of the “fifth” season (more about that term soon). For now, we’re in the midst of a heatwave in the Lagoon, as it usually happens between mid-July and mid-August. But where do Venetians spend their summer weekends, and what do they love to eat?
Venetians spend summer weekends on the Lido whenever possible, in one of their private beach huts or beach lounges. Even on some hidden beaches on the Lagoon islands. Or, this year, a little farther away from the crowds. The Lido beaches are even wider and sandy when you walk along the bagnasciuga (shore) in the northern direction towards San Nicolò. You’ll be walking past pine groves and wild tamerisks, and salty herbs growing in the sand dunes amongst more tamerisks. You can walk until the mighty Mose embankments appear in front of you. And yes, on these concrete embankments, pink flamingos love to gather in spring and early summer! Here in the northern part, the Lido is all pines, wild herbs and salt-water loving plants sprouting in the sand dunes.
Or, you could explore the beaches further south, take the bus and ferry-boat to reach the second island shielding the Lagoon from the open sea, which is called Pellestrina. It is 10 km long, and sometimes it gets quite quite narrow, less than 1 km wide.
Did you know that there were two Pellestrina islands until the 16th century? Il Litorale di Pellestrina was interrupted by the third port of Venice, called Albiola, later interrato (filled in) and then called Porto Secco. You will pass it on your way to the southern tip of Pellestrina, the beaches and wildlife oases at Ca’ Roman: Here you can walk amongst the dunes and wild beaches surrounded by pines, eucalyptus, wild thyme and rosemary. A wonderful place have lunch at one of the tiny beach restaurants, such as Bar da Niki and Osteria Il Campiello.
Especially in summer, these small restaurants and bars offer grilled Lagoon specialties – grigliate della Laguna which taste really special as they are grilled on pine twigs and flavored with wild herbs growing all around. Here’s what a Lagoon grill platter would look like:
These aren’t the usual recipes for una grigliata, but taste and smell of the southern Lagoon. Of course, you can recreate these flavors in your own kitchen, provided that you make ample use of fragrant summer herbs and blossoms: Purple basil, lavender blossoms, thyme and rosemary blossoms – we make the most of the herbs while they flower in summer. Below, you can find our salsa ai fiori di Laguna – the Lagoon blossom dip which works with sea food in particular, and the side dishes like grilled potatoes and stuffed tomatoes above.
Salsa piccante ai fiori di Laguna
- 2 apricots
- 150 gr sour cream
- 15 black olives
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- Sea salt, white pepper, yellow mustard powder
- Edible blossoms (thyme, lavender, hyssop, basil)
- Cut the apricots, tomatoes and olives into tiny dices and fry them with the blossoms in olive oil for a few minutes.
- Add the other ingredients and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve warm as dip or use it to flavor the sea food before grilling.
Recipes and stories like these will be part of our new LAGUNA IN CUCINA Membership, online from 5 August 2020.5